on more orchestra horror stories

Jon's post inspired me to write about the only time I ever got a seat in an ensemble completely by accident.

For a while when I was a youngster, I played with the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony. One day, that group was rehearsing in a different place than usual, which was the music building at Cleveland State University. I got horribly lost trying to find the right room in that building, and was happy to hear the sounds of music coming from inside a rehearsal hall I passed. Figuring that this was my band, I walked in.

No, I had actually walked in on the rehearsal of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra (most famous these days for its performance with Styx in 2006), which I had never heard of. I was carrying my trombone case, and immediately realized that this wasn't the right ensemble, and turned around and walked out -- only to be chased by Eric, one of the group's assistant conductors.

He then proceeded to explain to me that his orchestra had only one trombonist and could really use another. He told me of the music they were playing -- the music of Joan Tower, including "For the Uncommon Woman" -- and basically begged me to join. Please note that he had never heard me play; all he knew was that I was some sixteen year old girl showing up with a trombone case. Finally, I agreed.

I never auditioned; I just showed up and started playing. This was the first orchestra I had ever played with, and they were playing decidedly weird music. I sat solo bass trombone on Tower's "Concerto for Flute", being the only one with an F-trigger. I got to play "Fanfare for the Common Man" from the rafters of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and hit a few tambourine licks in "Riders on the Storm: The Doors Concerto" (there were no brass parts). It was a pretty good experience, for being completely underprepared for a task that I received by accident.

The thing that Jon's story reminded me of was how these guys stiffed me in the end. At the end of the season, they demanded a $150 fee to play in this group -- allow me to remind you that I was begged to come play with them. My name also never appeared on the program. The CD I ordered from them of our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance never came in the mail, and when I called to ask after it, they claimed that I wasn't in the orchestra. All I have to prove that I was ever with this group is a faded long-sleeved t-shirt, which I am wearing right now.

Worthwhile? Probably. Learning experience? Definitely. A little bitter about it? Hell yes.

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